North Judson-San Pierre administrators continue to gather information about why students are leaving the corporation. N.J.-S.P.’s official enrollment is down 31 students from last fall, although Superintendent Annette Zupin says three students who had transferred to other schools have returned since the count was taken last month.
She told the school board Tuesday that 37 students who live in the N.J.-S.P. School District have left to attend school elsewhere. At the same time, though, 33 out-of-district students have transferred into the corporation. The big challenge is at the Junior/Senior High School, where 22 students have left. Zupin says the majority of them are now attending virtual online schools.
She says figuring out exactly why these students are leaving has been difficult, due to a lack of reliable data. But her time as high school principal has taught her that it usually boils down to one of three things, “The programs, the negative perception of the school, and student conflict – so just knowing that because of my experience here, we need to focus on those areas as we make a plan.”
When it comes to bullying, Zupin says the corporation needs to make sure it’s offering positive relationships for students, intervening when necessary, and communicating effectively with parents. “Even if it’s perceived bullying or the real thing, it still is hurtful to those people who left,” she said. “So yes, we want to address that.”
Moving ahead, Zupin is putting some new measures in place to better track why students are leaving and where they’re going. As part of that effort, each school will keep records of whether students transfer to a traditional or virtual school, switch to home schooling, or move out of the district. “Every time a student leaves, the registrars, the secretaries, will make sure we know why,” Zupin said. “And also, they have an exit form. They are getting information from them, and they are asking them why they are leaving. That gives us some information on what we may need to do better to keep the students here.”
Each month, that information will be submitted to the central office, and a report will be given to the school board on a quarterly basis. Zupin says that having up-to-date information will help the corporation as it moves forward, especially with its strategic planning process.
But beyond that, Zupin says the corporation also faces outside challenges. She notes that Starke County’s population is not growing, something that’s true of many rural areas.
Still, Zupin says N.J.-S.P. does have some strengths on which it can build. “Particularly last year, when we had a few students leave to go to another school, I know of two that came back and both, the specific reason for coming back was they didn’t get the service and the individualized instruction that we provide,” she said. “So I know that we have positive relationships from our staff members to the students, that those two indicated they came back for that very reason.”
How to promote some the the corporation’s unique program offerings will also be a major focus of the strategic planning. Some ideas are expected to be presented during next month’s school board meeting.